1850 – A New Flag Flies Over California
“You do not look like the rest of the Mex who live around here.”
Andrew Lopez did his best to fight back an angry retort. Over the past few months, he had grown accustomed to the crude, even rude, comments by the new lords of the American territory of California. “That is because my grandfather came to this land from England.”
“Oh. A Limey.”
Andrew quickly sipped his warm beer and glanced at his companion, Santiago Mateo. The two had left the compound to walk down to the waterfront to sit in the shade and watch the fishing fleet unload its catch. The Queen and Carlita had long been dismantled, three new keels laid to replace them, all with the swift lines of American craft.
“Those brown-skins sure seem to be working hard.”
“Yes, not the least like their ignorant cousins lazing on those ridiculous ranches of theirs. Wonder how much longer until the governor and the territorial legislature make them give up the land.”
How the two American sailors had made their way to Carmel from Monte Rey was unknown. The harbor there was filled with their craft and the waterfront bars and saloons filled with them – and the horde of local girls eager to earn the coins they freely spent on food, drink, and debauchery.
“Hey! Do either of you know where we can get some action around here? You know, those hot cen-yor-eenas we hear about?”
“You have come to the wrong place. This is but a simple fishing village and all of the women are either married or given to others.”
Both sailors tossed back their drinks and rose, leaving an obscene number of coins on the table as if to show off their wealth – and importance. They swaggered off, following the well-beaten road across the hills, still lined with numerous crosses placed there during the height of Catholic influence in the area.
To add insult to injury, a Protestant cleric had arrived in Monte Rey, establishing a small church in a vacant warehouse once belonging to the Mexican harbor master.
“Do you think the church will ever regain control of the missions?”
Santiago shrugged. “The bishop is trying very hard to have that come to pass. I have heard that the seminary in Santa Inés has a reasonable number of students and, although almost all of the property is gone, Misión Santa Bárbara is still in the hands of the church.”
Certain that the loads of fish had been withdrawn from the holds of the fleet and disposed of to the various shops and establishments waiting for them, the two rose and walked back to the Beadle Compound, as it was now called. Barbara smiled at them and turned to one of the children to tell them to go to the kitchen to gather drinks to take to the two men.
They entered the room which had recently been expanded thanks to some workers from the shipyard and gazed at the leather-bound tomes lining the shelves.
“Do you believe anyone will ever care what these books contain, mi amigo.” That Santiago used Spanish startled Andrew as, since the signs of Mexican control slipping away had appeared, all the members of the household did their best to speak English.
“Granpa. Do you wish milk with your coffee? Mama did not tell me.”
Andrew tousled the little girl's sandy hair and chuckled. “No, little one. I will just add a bit of sugar to it.”
Satisfied the two respected elders had what they wished, Elanita skipped from the room to return to help other adults in the kitchen.
Andrew sighed. “I really do not know, my friend. However, there is one thing I have meant to bring up to you. What think you of wrapping all the old ones in canvas, placing them in trunks, and taking them to Sea Lion's Cove. So far, the Americans have not found it and none of our fellow Califorños know it exists. They should be safe there for many years to come.”
Santiago readily agreed and, after finishing the latest entries in ledgers and journals, set about making preparations to do just that.
“There is a cave in the cliff face where we can store these, father.”
The twenty-five women and children living in the hidden cove several leagues south of Carmel, always welcomed the arrival of one of the boats. Not just for the few supplies, but news of the outside world. They lived well in substantial homes with flourishing gardens, an orchard with a variety of fruit trees, and even some grape vines. There was a sufficient number of livestock to serve their needs, most happily grazing in lush pastures. The stream tumbling down out of the mountains covered with towering redwood trees provided irrigation and water for the sparkling fountains. Human and animal waste was stored in mulch and fertilizer sites to keep the plants growing to unusual heights, corn stalks always towering over the heads of those working the Three Sisters. All of the industries once located in the missions were available to them, making the tiny village self-sustaining.
The most welcome addition was a young man who shyly helped unload the crates containing the books. Germano Rodriguez was the grandson of the herders who had come to California with the first expedition and was one of the very few outside the direct family who knew of its existence. His presence was plain when a young girl approached and took one end of a crate to help carry it to the cave.
“How will we arrange their nuptials, father? Is there a priest we can trust to perform the marriage ceremony?”
“I approached Father Anzar and he said he would gladly perform the nuptials in the chapel in Carmel. I am going to ask them if they feel they are ready and, if so, take them back with us.”
“Maria and I will then return with you father. She will not miss the marriage of our daughter.”
Andrew chuckled. All the women of The Family were strong-willed and could not be denied in matters of family.
All had dark faces during the wedding procession. Not because of anything other than their destination. The mission chapel was in such disrepair that almost nothing was left. Even the wooden pews and kneelers were gone. Fortunately, all the holy items and icons had been safely stored away in a storehouse belonging to The Family.
They rode across the hills to Monte Rey and the chapel of stone. Padre Anzar, a Zacatecan who seemed still devoted to his duties, greeted them at the door wearing his purple alb. Two young disciples, children of retired soldiers who lived in the village and struggled to eke out a living, joined the friar in conducting the rights. One of the older boys acted as a deacon, studying diligently to take up the cloth when he could go to the seminary in Mexico.
Several members of the growing colony of foreigners attended as they had close business ties with Andrew and other members of Carmel.
Much happier, the wedding party rode back across the hills to an open plot of land in front of the Beadle compound. There were two towering oak trees and several pines now named for the town of Monte Rey. A full beef carcass turned on a large spit with two pigs, a dozen chickens, and large iron pots filled with beans, corn, squash, and onions, along with an assortment of savory herbs.
A band played gay music, made up of those who had been taught music by the departed Padre Suria. They were quite good and a newly introduced accordion brought grins to young faces as they danced on the hard-packed earth.
“Where did the ladies find the wine?” David asked. “I thought the cache had been stripped and carried away when they took the mission away from the friars.”
“Do not ask me, my friend. You know how our ladies do some truly amazing things. At least I can tell you the fine beer comes from David Littlejohn's shop. I do not know who brews it for him but I find it quite tasty.”
Nobody was surprised when the newly married couple boarded a boat and departed. It would be their la luna miel.
“We are growing old, my wife.”
Barbara snuggled closer in the bed Andrew's father and mother had slept in for so many years. “I find it difficult to comprehend that mother and father are no longer with us.”
“It has been some time since we received letters from them. But they wrote that things are going well for them in far away England once they overcame initial difficulties.”
“They seemed to be the only constant in this unstable land of ours. One governor after another, some more venal than others. Conflicts between those of the north and south. Claims of Los Angeles being the rightful capitol of the territory. It is most difficult to keep up with.”
“The important point is the wisdom of your grandfather and father. Due to them, we have deeds to our land and our fleet. Along with that, we know that a large sum of money awaits us in a London bank. Our family will never want and even with the encroachment of Americans and others, we will retain our freedom in this place.”
Andrew wished he could share his wife's optimism. They had already seen American warships along the coast and British were being told to depart from the territories of Oregon and Washington. War was coming and Andrew knew the Mexican military could not defend the land. As powerful in name as Captain Vallejo had become in the north, his forces were still armed with flintlock muskets and lances. The few small field pieces lacked shot and powder and those who could successfully man them.
He fell asleep reflecting on what had been lost and what uncertainty faced them all.